Smash Hit Plunder is very close to being ready for you, after over four years of development! So we’re sharing what we’ve been doing and how it’s been done over a series of blogs, and hopefully you will learn as well as get excited about what’s coming out shortly. Let’s start with the concept.
In late March we were very pleased to be invited to a Sony exclusive press event featuring PSVR. We showed our game, Smash Hit Plunder, to national and international press, letting them having a chance to play through both single and multiplayer. Being able to do this demo meant that everyone could get a feel for the game’s unique medieval style and tactile environment, and a lot of fun was had!
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Triangular Pixels began life as a company in 2014, when Creative Director Katie Goode and Technical Director John Campbell fulfilled their dream of shifting from AAA studio game creation to making their own independent games. Thanks to clever business decisions and saved funds the partners moved to Bude, Cornwall, to concentrate on making exciting virtual reality games suitable for all players and ages.
Smash Hit Plunder, which is due for release this year, has had an interesting development history. The story started in 2014 when Katie and John realised that their dream for Triangular Pixels was to make a truly social VR game – the kind of game that couch friends could get in on. We wanted to make a game that would feel tactile (smashing!) and immersive (plundering!) with a medieval pixel-art arcade theme. The story behind the game is that the player is a VR Mage on a magical quest to unlock their ancestral home, which has been locked down by a devious debt collector, Mordred – and the only way to pay him back is to loot your own castle for treasure!
Here’s a very early image of the game in development….
After 3 weeks of crunch prototyping and development Smash Hit Plunder was first trialed at LadyCade on 18th July 2014. Initially, the game was intended for release on the Gear VR, using a 2D shared screen to draw in external players and viewers. We had a great showing at GameCity in Nottingham that year, too. Here you can see the VR player using the Gear and the social screen demonstrating their actions for everyone to enjoy. At this point, the 2D screen was essentially a map screen showing what the VR player was doing:
By May 2015, the game was really beginning to expand and push at the limits of VR capabilities and the platform we were targeting, so we started trying to find a platform and a partner that really fit with the game. We saw the possibilities with PlayStation VR: how it was a system designed for the living room with sofa multiplayer in mind – fitting exactly with our passions for the game. We made the big step to change platforms and focus only on PSVR. We were then very proud and excited to receive support from Sony! So in October that year, development shifted to PSVR – a great business move as the PSVR is the highest selling VR HMD at the moment!
Holidays were hard to take, and every day off we had from full time positions at other studios were used on development for Smash Hit Plunder. However in September 2015 we justified a ‘game dev holiday’ where we had a month off Smash Hit Plunder to work on a new platform, HTC Vive, and project – Unseen Diplomacy. The game went on to be a huge success – being nominated and winning multiple awards for our first ever release, which raised the company profile.
2016 was spent porting, designing and developing the game into a fully-fledged adventure game specifically designed for PSVR. Going from a Mobile VR prototype to a console VR game also meant a change in direction and scale. We added story, dungeons, spirits to either make friends with or fight, and the 2D TV screen (social screen) became a whole new area we were finally able to focus on.
The social screen now shows what’s happening with the VR Mage in real time:
Not only that, but multiplayer modes were added – these were then properly refined in 2017 and include 2 player co-op, and 2 manic versus modes which means friends can play along as a Goblin using a PS4 pad and viewing the social screen. We added three more game modes: scavenger hunt and treasure rush set you the challenge of finding enough items within a specific time limit, or of finding that one piece of very special treasure, and free play which lets the player explore (and smash!) at their leisure.
Smash Hit Plunder has a full cast of spiritual characters – both friend and foe – and the player’s Grandma is always about to help guide the VR Mage to success.
2017 was a whirlwind of development and business growth and we announced the game at Paris Games Week in November. Thanks to local funding support from Cultivator Cornwall and students from Cornwall College we created our very own trailer from scratch:
And now it’s 2018! We have a full team working on the game – design, code, art, audio, production and music, and we’re looking forward to releasing this year!
Best Game Developer Award for Triangular Pixels at the Cornwall Edge Awards!
1st December 2017, Bude, Cornwall
Thanks to hosts Cornwall Live, last night we were absolutely delighted to be awarded with ‘Best Game Developer’ at the Cornwall Edge Awards. We’re based in Bude in Cornwall, are proud to be fully independent, and are therefore very grateful to have been recognised for our recent successes.
We’ve been deeply involved in the Cornwall technological scene, including showing at events, hosting work experience students, and working with Cornwall College to produce a trailer for our forthcoming game Smash Hit Plunder. We used this trailer as part of Sony’s Paris Games Week launch announcement and are now looking forward to releasing the game in 2018.
We’d like especially to thank Cultivator Cornwall for their business and financial support, and Sony, Valve and HTC for providing the means necessary to create cutting-edge virtual reality games. Special thanks are also due to Transform Cornwall for vital business mentoring, keeping us fully independent and able to continue to working on transformative, fun and engaging new games.
The role of the producer within a game studio can be pretty contentious. Where big studios utilise product owners to hold budgets and manage the development time of medium to large games, the need for a production role in indie studios is less established.
Many of you will not know that I carry a hidden learning disability – Dyslexia. It can affect my daily life, it affected my education, and has shaped me as a person. I wanted to write up this blog post so I can share with you that having this disability isn’t necessarily a negative, and if you are affected – to give you reason to keep pushing and show you you can still be a successful designer.
We’re starting a little side project, thanks to the trackers HTC have sent us!
The VR tracked pet! (/small child)
Last week we had the pleasure of attending Confetti’s 2017 ‘Industry Week’. Confetti is an Institute of Creative Technologies, and Triangular Pixels went along to showcase Unseen Diplomacy. The industry week is all about bringing real-life experience and technologies to Confetti’s students, and our live VR game certainly helped that!
The green screen, although not necessary for the game to run,
added to the atmosphere and looked very cool.
Unseen Diplomacy is a social game designed to make the most of space and audience interaction. Confetti was a perfect place to do this because their students are becoming specialists in the creative industries and we were glad to talk to them about our VR work.
The two days were very busy – we estimate Unseen Diplomacy had about 1 player every 5 minutes for 7 hours, and the queue was always full. Unseen Diplomacy encourages different interactions with the game and how the player gets through the space, and we were impressed with the new techniques people tried (like throwing keycards to flip switches!).
Everyone had fun watching, too, with friends encouraging each other.
We also had some excellent player reactions!
We had groups coming into discuss the game and how it’s different to other games. We talked about how its development story and about what it means to work in VR – hopefully inspiring further innovation.
If you want to bring Unseen Diplomacy to your event or exhibition, get in touch!
Thursday, 9th March 2017
Exceptional news for the Cornish Games Industry – Triangular Pixels, VR games studio from Bude, has had their game “Unseen Diplomacy ” nominated for this years BAFTA Award for Games Innovation.